France football chief clears Benzema's path even if convicted in 'sex tape' case

·2-min read

Noel Le Graet, French football’s most powerful administrator, has given the France team boss carte blanche to pick the Real Madrid star Karim Benzema even if he is found guilty of involvement in a plot to blackmail the former France international Mathieu Valbuena.

“The coach will always be responsible for his selections and Benzema will not be excluded from a possible judicial sanction," Le Graet told Le Parisien newspaper.

Dider Deschamps recalled Benzema to the national squad in May after sidelining him for five years due to the “sex tape affair” in which the former Lyon striker and four other men were accused of trying to make Valbuena pay money to stop the release of a video containing explicit sexual images of him and a woman.

Benzema missed France’s surge to World Cup glory in 2018. But his impressive form for Madrid prompted clamours for his return to the national squad.

Deschamps’ change of heart came just before the delayed European championships in July. France ultimately lost to Switzerland in the last 16.

Comeback

The team rebounded, however, to claim the 2021 Nations League in October after thrilling victories over Belgium and Spain.

Soon after the triumph, a court in Versailles heard the allegations of the sex tape affair.

Prosecutors have requested a 10-month suspended prison sentence and a €75,000 fine for Benzema, Judges will decide on 24 November.

Le Graet, who is the president of the French Football Federation, told Le Parisien: “Even if he receives a suspended prison sentence, he still has the possibility of appealing against a conviction.

"So whether or not he is called up for the national squad in the coming months will not be linked to this judgment.”

On Saturday, Benzema, who has scored 33 goals in 92 appearances for this country, is expected to form the attacking trident with Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, in the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan.

If France win at the Parc des Princes on Saturday night, they will qualify for the tournament next November.

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